Synapse: April 5, 1965

Thursday, April 2, 2015

From 50 Years Ago:

Vol. 9, No. 10, April 5, 1965:

A half century ago, UCSF played host to a several cultural events and exhibits, including an art exhibit featuring a Bay Area native and a collection of controversial films.

In April 1965, the campus hosted the art exhibit “Looking at Pictures with Gertrude Stein.” An unattributed author opened Synapse’s article on it, “Gertrude Stein is the subject, object and predicate of an art exhibit opening April 6, at Millberry Union. Viewers will be looking at pictures with Gertrude Stein, looking at pictures, looking at pictures of Gertrude Stein looking at Gertrude Stein. . .” More concretely, the exhibit featured “more than a hundred rare photographs of her in the milieu she made famous -- Paris fin de siecle, Paris of the expatriates, Paris--her “home town”--through two world wars.” After premiering at UCSF, the collection was to travel to a number of other universities across the country.

An article by Carol Mosotovy covered the March 1965 visit of “well known and highly controversial film maker” Kenneth Anger--still alive today and now 88 years old--at which he provided commentary at a program at which four of his short films were shown. Mostovoy focused her article on the film “Scorpio Rising.” That film centers on a “group of motorcycle cultists and their practice of homosexual activities.” Some in the audience were displeased with the film: “it was commented that “’Scorpio Rising’ had no socially redeeming value, and that Mr. Anger is merely playing on the sexual ‘weakness’ of man.”

“To such an evaluation, what can be said?. . . as far as the content and subject are concerned, it is reality,” countered Mostovoy in her piece. “There is no question that the film is of human value, if merely in its statement of a reality of human behavior, which is not necessarily weakness or perversion, but part of the human condition that should be recognized and accepted as part of a world which we cannot refuse to see.” Although only a qualified defense of the film and homosexuality, I think that Mostovoy deserves some credit given the prevailing attitudes of the time.